CO-Horts Blog

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Best of Red, White, and Blue

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, CSU Extension in Larimer County

To all those who have served our county, are currently serving, or sacrificed their life: Thank you. On this Memorial Day, please know I am very grateful to all of you and your families.

My dad served in the National Guard for over 20 years and my grandpa was a WWII veteran. I am very proud for what they did for our country and proudly fly a flag in their honor. I also love the color combination of red, white, and blue! It's a great threesome. got me thinking...what are the best red, white, and blue flowers if you wanted to have your own patriotic garden? It turned out to be a really long list, so I'm just highlighting a few below. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments below!


Obviously roses are at the top of the list. What's more red than a rose? But red is a hard color--is it more candy apple red? Mustang red? I'm Not Really a Waitress red from O.P.I. nail polish? Red is a very personal color and can be subjective in the eyes of the gardener.

A very good red rose that is fitting with our theme is 'Veterans' Honor' hybrid tea. This rose actually has roots to a special Master Gardener in Larimer County, Roger Heins. Roger is a veteran and worked as a breeder for Jackson and Perkins and this is one of his introductions. Hybrid teas can be fussy, but if you want that perfect red rose, this is this one for you.
Veterans' Honor hybrid tea rose from Jackson and Perkins
If you want to add some color to your summer garden, then plant some zinnias. They are non-stop bloomers, great cut flowers, and come in many colors, including red. In the CSU Annual Trial Gardens, the top zinnia was 'Zesty Scarlet'. Another option is 'Benary's Giant Scarlet'.
Benary's Giant Scarlet zinnia
Runner up red flowers: geraniums, dahlias, tulips, petunias, cardinal flower, anthurium, poinsettias, and amaryllis.


White is simple. It's pure. White is a neutral and can be paired with anything. Fortunately there are many great white flowers:

Bleeding heart is one of my spring-blooming favorites. It reminds me of my Grandma Stoven who used to tell me a story about each part of the flower. For the life of me, I can't remember! I know it involved two bunnies, a bottle of wine, and button hooks. Bleeding heart loves cooler weather and fades when it gets too hot, but comes back reliably each year. Its cousin, the pink bleeding heart, make a good match in the garden.
White bleeding heart
Iris are another spring bloomer, and iris come in every color of the rainbow. The white bearded iris are absolutely beautiful--a very clean, crisp white. Plus, iris are tough-as-nails. They are drought tolerant and bloom their hearts out every year. Maintenance is minimal and they just need to be divided every few years.
White bearded iris
Finally, an annual that loves the heat and blooms non-stop is bacopa. Looking for a spiller for your containers and hanging baskets? Bacopa is a great choice. This little annual is covered in blooms all summer and doesn't need any pinching or deadheading. 
Runner up white flowers: Shasta daisies, Annabelle hydrangea, cosmos, sweet alyssum, Spring Snow crabapple, and datura.


Did you know the Pantone Color of the Year is Basic Blue? Yep, so now you can be patriotic AND trendy in your garden, if you plant blue flowers. Blue is a tough color--there's not a lot of true blue flowers, but breeding is getting better and there are many that are close enough. A couple options:

Lobelia. The darling of hanging baskets. The good news about lobelia is that it's being bred to be more heat tolerant. In the past, lobelia would melt with hot weather and all that would be left in your baskets by August were petunias. (Note: there are some very good white lobelia too!) Lobelia blooms all.the.time. 
Blue lobelia. The flowers are just getting started.
My co-worker just texted about love-in-a-mist the other day. She loves it and wants more. With fennel-like foliage, this annual is a great cut flower and will reseed freely in your garden. It does prefer some moisture. After it blooms, the seedpods add additional interest.
Love-in-a-mist (photo from
Speedwell (Veronica) is another great blue...with shades of purple. This perennial can range in height from just 12" to over three feet, depending on the cultivar you choose. Pollinators love speedwell and will attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. After the first bloom, cut back the plant to encourage a second (smaller) set of flowers. 
Dark Moody Blues speedwell
Runner up blue flowers: lupine, foxglove, Endless Summer hydrangea, delphinium, Himalayan blue poppy, lily of the Nile, and forget-me-not. 

Red, white, and blue also pairs well with greens, so don't forget those foliage plants! 

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